Selective Mercy

Selective Mercy
Robert Wurtz II

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NKJV)

“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”” (John 8:3–5 NKJV)

The scribes and Pharisees, according to Stephen in Acts 7:51, always resisted the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the influence of the Holy Spirit was absent from their life except where He “goaded” them as He did Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:5). The Pharisees were not spiritual people. One must have the Holy Spirit in order to be spiritual. The scribes and Pharisees moved in the realm of the flesh. So it should not surprise us that they were basically unmerciful people. At least, they showed selective mercy. Saul, the ultimate Pharisee (Acts 26:4, Galatians 1:14), went as far as to have Christians killed believing he was doing God a service. Prior to his change he was a very unmerciful and violent man. 

Pericope Adulterae 

There is no evil quiet so wicked as that which is performed under the guise of doing right. The scribes and Pharisees pretended to be “righteous” while dragging and humiliating a woman caught in the act of adultery before Jesus. Their hypocrisy was soon discovered as each one was made to face their conscience after the Lord spoke the famous words, “He who is without sin let him first cast a stone at her.” Even these callous Pharisees had sense enough to know not to stone the woman after being reminded of the many terrible sins they themselves had committed. 

What is more striking in these verses is that these hypocrites failed to humiliate the man too. It is my experience that hypocrites often blame the woman first — though this has not been God’s pattern as evidenced in the Garden of Eden or with David and Bathsheba. Nevertheless, these experts in the law disregarded these plain facts and exercised their selective mercy upon the person of their choice. Was he a friend of theirs? Was he one of the men’s son or brother? Or did they let him off simply because they believed that men were superior to women? God only knows. It’s very hard to be consistent in your theology and righteous in its application when prejudice and familiarity are in play. 

What Do You Say?

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. His life was the prime expression of the fruit of the Spirit listed in the final verses of Galatians 5. He had no sin — therefore He was the only person worthy of stoning that woman. He did not. He simply said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
(John 8:11b NKJV) These are two essential things. Paul moves to the matter of fallen believers in Galatians 6:1 when he writes, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness (…).” Notice who are qualified to restore, the spiritual people. That is, the people who exude the fruit of the Spirit. People who have fallen in sin need spiritual people around them and not carnal folks like the scribes and Pharisees. 

Carnal people will think up all kinds of reasons not to restore a person. Again, they move in selective mercy so they would restore family, friends, peers, etc. What about the outcast? What about a person they dislike? What about their rival? Carnal professors of Christ will destroy those people and do it in the name of being righteous, protecting the innocent, keeping the standard, or any other excuse. The carnal just can’t find it in themselves to let certain people up. They will restore their friends and family; but they will expose and humiliate everyone else. 

The carnal believer will “throw the first stone” knowing they have done similar things. It does not matter to them. Their sins, their friends sins, and their families sins are all “under the blood” (forgiven). They get hostile if you bring their sins up. However, they don’t mind dragging up other peoples’ past to expose and humiliate them. I have personally known of so-called Christians calling pastors to expose people in their congregations who were trying to move on with their life. All the while they fear that someone would make that call and expose their past. Amazing! But it is happening. Some have slipped into relationships and dropped bits of information breaking up engagements (or attempted to). They wont let certain people get past their past — but they work diligently to make sure their past is not exposed. What hypocrisy! What happens? Everyone outside their “circle of love” is subject to the carnal treatment leveled upon the woman taken in adultery. This is a terrible and diabolical evil. People who engage in these type sins are carnal enemies of the cross no matter what their title is. Scribe and Pharisee was a pretty hefty title, but it did not shield them from the reality of their evil and in the end they were exposed for their hypocrisy.  



Again, Paul says it plainly “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NKJV) Notice the words, considering yourself. This is what spiritual people are to do when they are helping restore the fallen. They don’t ride their high-horse and act like they never sinned. They think about their own lives — what they have done in the past and where they would be had God not showed them mercy and grace. This humbles the spiritual and gives them the right spirit in which to handle fallen saints. On the other hand, the carnal scribes and Pharisees humiliated a woman and were about to stone her to death with sin riding on their own conscience. What evil! This is why hell is going to be so hot. 
   

How To Get Forgiveness From God (Homologeo: confessing or acknowledging our sins)

How To Get Forgiveness From God
Robert Wurtz II

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (2 Samuel 12:13)

Our passage is a small, but vital part of the story of king David’s sin in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. He had stayed home when the kings went off to war in the house that Hiram the king of Tyre had built for him. (Ezekiel 28:14-19) He wist not that he was being set up of the enemy. The subtle and seemingly insignificant voices and choices of his life had brought David to a baited-snare prepared by the Devil. He saw Bathsheba, called her to his room, and a terrible series of sins ensued. The sordid details of the events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11:1-17.


Obstacles to Confessing

It is human nature to want to cover our sins. Nobody wants to be embarrassed. In modern times exposing peoples’ sins has become a sport. Hardly a week goes by and someone is in the media caught in sin — with millions of people “piling on.” There is a violence in our age that seeks to destroy people. It’s like a diabolic ground and pound is loosed upon the fallen seeking to beat them to pieces. It is Satan at work. I have always marveled at the way in which people can condemn others knowing they have done similar sins. In fact, I attended a court hearing once in which a young man was being charged with a crime. The judged scolded him and ended his rant with this sobering question, “Do you know what the difference is between you and I? You got caught and I didn’t!” With this attitude prevailing in the land it become more difficult by the day to confess our sins when we have done wrong. The Devil works to make each and every person a prisoner to their own past — yet Christ has come to set the captives free. 



I was at a conference a number of years ago and an opportunity was given to share a confession with the people. In fact, it was streaming live all over the world. Feeling pricked in my heart I went up as I have done many times over my Christian life to acknowledge that I was not as perfect as I sometimes projected by my actions. Some brothers prayed with me and others who did likewise. As is typical of these events, there were some who viewed it as an occasion to criticize and condescend. I was quite upset about it and determined to never be vulnerable like that again. However, over the years I have come to realize that the enemy was trying to use this situation (and others like it) to harden my heart before God. Satan does not like it when we are self-loathing (for lack of a better term) and sensitive before the Lord. He wants us to proudly carry on as if we are perfect before God so that the world “will never see us sweat.” Can you imagine how many people were lined up to throw a stone at king David? They may have had two or three mistresses on the side themselves; but if people were then as they are today they would have stoned him with lipstick on their own collar. 

How could a person be so callous that they would send someone to jail for doing the very thing they did — only they didn’t get caught? This, to me, is one of the many reasons why hell is going to be so hot. Like the man forgiven of a fortune Matthew 26:28 who then went and took his neighbor by the throat over a few coins. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1–3 KJV) In spite of all of these things we have an obligation to confess our sins before the Lord. If our sin is known publically it should be confessed to the extent that it is known. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
(Proverbs 28:13 KJV)   

Cover Up and Denial 

When the “writing is on the wall” and a person still will not own up to their wrong doing — we call that “denial.” It is an ancient sin traced to Cain and his evasive and contemptuous answers when confronted by God. The Lord knows that this is often a human reaction to sin. Cover-up and then deny. It can last for hours, days, weeks and years. It all depends on when the guilty decide to change their mind about their behavior and justify God instead of themselves. All the evidence in the world cannot secure a confession if the person is not prepared to admit. Many variables weigh in on this stubbornness. We simply don’t want to admit that we could do something so dishonorable. 


Convinced of Sin

Nobody likes to be confronted when they are in error. Herod killed John the Baptist because his wife was furious over John’s preaching. She wanted his head in a charger and Herod gave it to her. Paul told the Roman authorities that the Jews sought to kill him because he called them to repentance (Acts 26:19-21). It is safe to say that nobody wants to be confronted with their sins. 

King David was an unusual case because he held the power to kill his accusers. Shockingly, he had already demonstrated he was willing to kill to cover up his sin (i.e. he had Uriah killed). In fact, Joab knew David so well that he anticipated exactly what he would say to the messenger that gave the details of the losses in battle. He armed the messenger with these words, thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. To this David was pleased and replied, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him. Imagine a man that should have been livid at the negligence of one of his leaders actually encouraging him. Joab knew something was up.  

What Did Joab Find? 

It’s hard to imagine how paranoid David had to be. He knew of all people Joab could do simple math. No one is that dumb. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. How long did this last? No woman would be so shady as to jump right into a marriage before her husband’s bones are even cold in the grave. Some amount of time had to elapse. Even if it were weeks, the clock is ticking and David knows it. He only has roughly nine months before this child is born and he already lost near a month from the time of her cleansing until the discovery of the pregnancy. That means there are eight months before birth at the time of Uriah’s death. 

David had to be sweating bullets. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. (2 Samuel 11:26, 27) David has a problem though, this all looks very suspicious. His own conscience would have smitten him to no end, but he is also living with the daily fear of discovery. What did he say later? “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psalms 32:4 KJV) That is a verse to a song! Could you imagine singing a hymn about being under conviction of the Holy Spirit? Maybe we should do it. 

Uncommon Courage

There is no telling how long David would have gone if he had not been confronted. Had this thing drawn out for years and years he would have become a spiritual zombie. Struggling day to day to scratch out an existence on this earth. He would have lost his cutting edge. What if he had no Prophet? This is the trouble with error, the enemy often puts people in position to ride out their sin until at last they either lose their mind or destroy themselves. The king seemed to have nobody willing to confront him. Who would do it? A close friend? A family member? Not usually. Friends and family are often anything but confrontational, because they fear the loss of the relationship too much to confront a situation. The Jews have a saying, that one of the causes of the ruin of their nation was, “No man reproved another.” (Adam Clarke) This is the strategy of the enemy. How many people thought, “It’s not my place to ask” or “I can’t talk to him!” People are smart enough to know that confronting a person that is not in a place to hear it will often hate them afterwards. Proverbs tells us:

These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. (Proverbs 24:23-25)  

Relationships have the power to corrupt right judgment. In fact, relationships have the power to corrupt our theology. The time would fail to speak of the times I have seen ministers change their theology to agree with their loved ones’ lifestyle. Nevertheless, a friend or family member may well slip down into hell because of fear of addressing their state. Why? Just to save the relationship. It is one of the most common exchanges for souls; relationships. Standing for truth and what is right takes uncommon courage when there is a high price-tag on the line. Nathan the prophet is said by some to be one of the bravest men in all the Bible. David could have killed him. Yet fearlessly, Nathan, who was just a man went to the king. He was a Prophet, but he was still a man. Notice that he did not bring out all the evidence. He had not obtained the letter from Joab or drew up in black and white the fact that the baby was born full-term and yet it was only a seven plus month pregnancy. He did not use anything that David could have explained away. He went in the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. 

Dealing With Sin Under the New Covenant 

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. This is hard to do, but it is the way of Christ (Robertson) The Rev. version ‘shew’ is better than tell, which implies merely naming the fault; whereas the injunction is, go and prove to him how he has erred. Tell him his fault (ἔλεγξον). The verb means, first, to test, try, search out; therefore, to cross-examine with a view of convincing or refuting; thence to rebuke or chide. (Vincent) It seems counter intuitive to Christian manners, but the same Greek construction is found in Titus 1:13b where we read; Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. 

This design is that the person would “hear” and “hearken.” This is to agree with what is said. This is the best case scenario; the person acknowledges what they have done and there is reconciliation. We then read, But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. This is God’s way of applying the pressure to the person so that they are brought face to face with the facts in the case. 

Common sense tells us that if a person has to come to this point, they will probably only acknowledge their offense under pressure and the chance of it being genuine is diminished. It is from here a small step to stage three, And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. This is direction also for what would later come to be known as “church discipline.” However, the principals are still in play. If a person transgresses and does not repent — there is a stoppage of the process. There can be no going forward unless this situation is made right. If the person will not “hear” the church (refuses to hear Gk. parakousēi). Many papyri have examples for ignoring, disregarding, hearing without heeding, hearing aside (para-), hearing amiss (Robertson). what should we do?”… let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:17).  

Agreeing With God

God’s route of forgiveness has never altered. I see this reality in 1 John 1:9 and have the example of David in the Old Testament. Nathan the prophet confronted David by using a simple story to touch his heart. God met him right where he was. The result? And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. There was a point when David was angry at the outcome of the story, but suddenly hears the voice of God in the mouth of Nathan. His reaction? And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. God’s reaction to David’s acknowledgement,  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 

David deserved death, but because he acknowledged his sin, God put away his sin. He would have to face the consequences of his actions, but he was back in a right standing with God. No more running. No more hiding. No more cover-ups, lying, or evading. He confessed; the world knew it; and he could go forward. What a glorious thing! In the writing of Psalm 51 his repentance became as notorious as his sin. As he ran he slowly dried up inside; but he cried out to God and found a faithful God that forgives and puts away sin. God restored the joy of his salvation. Confession; that is, agreeing with what God has said about our sin is the first step back to Him for the sinner or the fallen saint. No matter how difficult it is and no matter how many naysayers line up to throw the first stone, we have to keep our eyes on God. Forget what people think and say. What has God said? If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Amen.

The Prison of Memory

The Prison of Memory
Robert Wurtz II

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV)

Paul was determined to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of him in the beginning. The Lord met him on the Demascus road and apprehended him for a purpose. He was given a commission. We know from reading the latter portion of 2 Timothy that he will, in fact, finish his course. How did he do it? One of the keys is found in our passage; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. 

It is proper that Christians be careful to reflect on God’s goodness in the past. These things we ought always to remember. There is even a sense in which Paul remembered that he was once “chief of sinners.” Nevertheless, Paul knew that he must not dwell upon the past in such a way that it hindered him, rather than helped him, in his “pressing towards the goal for the prize.” Our failures and sins have been forgiven, so we must not dwell upon them to our hurt. Moreover, the achievements made in service of Christ, by His grace, must not occupy our mind in such a way as to prevent us from fully apprehending what God has designed for us. 

The Prison of Memory

Many people are imprisoned by their past; some literally, and others figuratively. I am inclined to speak to those who are in bondage to memories of past sins. Consider for a moment what it would have been like to be Paul. He had committed horrific sins against people who he thought were enemies. He compelled them to blaspheme Christ, and in some cases, was responsible for killing them. Once his eyes came open, he must have been mortified and vexed. I doubt he slept well for some time. Can you imagine the nightmarish things that would have plagued his mind? Seeing women and children crying and begging you to stop and yet you keep on mercilessly? The memories alone could have locked Paul into a prison for life and thrown away the key. How could he ever get past what he had done? Was there any way to forget?


The most illusive key to getting past our past is allowing others to get past theirs. What good is it to confess our sins to God and then refuse to forgive others? What sense does it make to want our sins forgotten, and yet refuse to allow others to forget their own. Think about it. Many people would like to forget all the bad they have done, but keep bringing up other peoples sins. This is why they are imprisoned to their own sins. Why should I receive peace if I am not willing to allow others to be at peace? I’m convinced that many people could walk out of their prison today if they would repent of their own unforgiveness. One simply cannot receive forgiveness and the peace of mind that comes with it and at the same time withhold it from others. It is impossible.

Another illusion the enemy sets up is the notion that God will forgive everyone elses’ sins except ours. This thinking pattern is clearly a stronghold of the enemy. Have you ever considered that God has the supernatural ability to forget? He can choose never to bring an incident up before His mind again. What did He say? For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34b, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17) He has the ability and is inclined to exercise it, to refuse to be reminded of our sins ever… again. Ponder that for a moment. Moreover, the prophet Isaiah wrote, Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. (Isaiah 38:17 KJV) It’s as if God launched my sin over His shoulder and walked off, forever. Amen. 

Oh the love that drew salvations plan: 
oh the grace that brought it down to man; 
oh the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdoned soul found liberty… at Calvary  

 (Newell)

Walking Out of the Prison

Some people are put-off from reading the Bible because of fear of what it says. They fear passages that describe sin, so they figure, what I don’t know can’t hurt me. Yet, the Bible is full of grace and truth. God stands willing to forgive and give us the grace to walk out in victory. The Blood of Christ will cleanse our conscience from dead works so that we can come face to face with God again, and serve Him confidently. (Hebrews 9:14) If we will acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Nevertheless, we cannot walk out alone. We must allow others, even our supposed enemies, to walk out with us. We can’t expect to have our sins forgiven and forgotten, and others retained and remembered. Who is it, if anyone, do you refuse to let them forget their past? Who is it, if anyone, do you insist on remembering their sins? We can’t leave them in bondage and go out scot-free. We go out together or not at all. This is the pattern of it.  

   



Hiding From God

Hiding From God
Robert Wurtz II

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 NKJV)

Adam and Eve have now realized that the Serpent has deceived them. Their conscience is eating away in their minds, while their heart smites them mercilessly. The sin seemed so simple, but at present the torment won’t go away. Whereas they once looked forward to the sound of God coming to fellowship with them; now they are fleeing in terror from Him. They formerly lived in serene happiness, but that is only a memory. Now their portion is abject misery. What a horrific picture.

It is important to realize that the enemy has not stopped with Adam and Eve. In fact, the Bible is filled with examples of people who succumbed to the lies of the enemy. Not always is this explained as such, but often it is inferred. What is going on? The enemy desires to destroy everyones relationship with God. Nobody is excluded. You may be a young believer or a seasoned Christian; it makes no difference. Satan desires to drive a wedge between you and God through some sin. He has many ways of doing it. He wants to get you so insnared that you will hide from God rather than running to Him.


Can God Forgive Me?

When the Prodigal Son left his father’s house for the big city (as it were), the excitement had a way of dulling his conscience to what he was actually doing. I have been told stories by people who committed terrible sins, that in the moment, didn’t seem so bad to them. However, as soon as the sin was over with their heart smote them and they began to weep. Some are still weeping, and it has been years. They struggle to believe that God will truly forgive them. You will recall that the Prodigal Son shared this mistaken notion about his father,

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (Luke 15:17–19 KJV) 


The Prodigal Son was very unassuming. We could consider this narrative simply an expression of his humility. However, I believe there is more here. This man believed that his crimes were so great, that he would be doing well just to get back on his father’s property. Think about it. He thought his father was more like his brother who remained home. His father was nothing like his brother. In fact, his father had been faithfully watching for him. 

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 


Can you imagine how shocked this young man was to have his father react this way? It is heartbreaking to think that rather than running to God, many run from God. Some do it because they have no intention of repenting of their sins. They are not prodigal’s, they are rebel’s. Nevertheless, there are they who really come to themselves and desire forgiveness; but they struggle wondering how God will react to them. Will God forgive me? Can I ever be saved? 


Hiding Among the Trees

Perhaps you are reading this, and you are wondering, can God forgive me? Is there any hope for me? Maybe you think your sins are too great. You may even attend church, but somehow you can’t come to terms with God’s willingness to forgive, truly. You’re hiding among the trees wondering what God is going to say to you on judgment day. 

I’m not going to load you down with a lot of technical talk about Greek words for mercy and forgiveness. I simply want you to consider the story of the Prodigal Son and how the father reacted to his son coming home. Jesus told this story to put an end to the Devil’s lies once and for all. You can be forgiven. You can be restored. Open your heart to Him. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him […] the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:22–24 KJV) 


Obstacle to the Outpouring

Obstacle to the Outpouring
Robert Wurtz II

 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? (Acts 7:26-27)

When God got ready to lead His people out of bondage He raised up a leader that demonstrated the characteristics of a true shepherd First we find Moses protecting the people from the abusive Egyptian that was beating his people and secondly he was calling them together in brotherly love and unity. He showed his character traits in two successive days. Stephen drew upon this event as part of his sermon on salvation history found in Acts 7. Keep in mind that the people he was preaching to was like their father’s; they did always resist the Holy Spirit. Key to this passage is understanding that God not only wants to dwell in His people, but He wants His people to dwell in unity and kindly affection. Christ, as Moses, has delivered His people from Pharaoh (a type of Satan) and Egypt (a type of this world) and expects them to leave off of their strivings with one another and dwell together in love from the heart. Nothing has changed since the time of Moses in this regard. While God is dealing death to the people of God’s enemies the people of God have to be reminded not to deal death and destruction (as it were) to one another.   

One Mind and One Heart

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete, by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Philippians 2:1, 2)

In Acts 2 Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon His people baptizing in the Holy Spirit. This event was preceded by a commonly overlooked reality that we encounter repeatedly throughout the book of Acts. Here we read, These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14) This is akin to Paul’s words in Philippians 2:2 where the Holy Spirit has said, make my joy complete, by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. God has spoken repeatedly, and shown us His heart through men like David and Moses throughout the scriptures, that one of His primary concerns is how His people dwell together in unity. The subject is of such seriousness that we dare not overlook it or haphazardly look to it. For David speaking by the Spirit had said, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1) The key to seeing God pour out His Spirit among His people is for them to lay aside their differences, come together in tender love and affection, and determine to be one one mind and one heart.  
Worshipping in Vain

And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. (Malachi 2:13)

There is a prevailing theme throughout the scriptures that is frequently overlooked insomuch that God has to come back and remind us in some of the strongest of terms. Our passage is such an occasion as it played out in Israel. The people were bringing as it were their offering to the Lord, but He was not regarding it. That is to say, He was paying it no attention. Some might ask, “Does God not seek such to worship Him? Does He not inhabit the praises of His people?” The answer is ‘yes’, however there are conditions upon which God will receive any offering that is brought to Him. Offerings under the Aaronic Priesthood had to be without spot or blemish. This was figurative in one sense. There are attitudes and behaviors that spoil an offering before we ever offer it. In the case of Malachi the people were treating their spouses treacherously- even divorcing them as if they were mere animals. God has called men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, but here is displayed some of the coldest and most callous attitude a human being can exhibit. Do believers not realize that not only will God not receive their praise and worship, but He will also not answer their prayers if they don’t rightly relate to each other? (1 Peter 3:7) This is but an example of how God is watching our attitudes and our treatment of one another when we come to attempt to offer Him prayer, worship and praise. 


Vain Praise

 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:22-24)
It is sobering to think that God is more interested with how we treat each other than He is the offerings that we bring Him. Almost as if what we are bringing Him can be unclean- tainted by the foulness of bitterness in relationships between His people. Peradventure some would seek to sing louder or shout higher in an attempt to drown this reality, but God is not hearing it. When His people refuse to make amends, He simply rejects the offering. When the aroma of strife is in the air it is as a noxious fume in the nostrils of God. But what gladness and joy are brought to the very heart of God when men reconcile with one another. Leave there thy gift at the altar and be reconciled with thy brother! Think of how awful men and women have treated each other over the centuries. Even little children were not exempt from the bitterness as people tried to prevent them from coming to Jesus. Such attitudes of heart- such hate and gall, such poison of asps, must never make it’s home in the child of God. 

Swift Repentance

Are you at enmity with your neighbor? God now, quickly down upon your knees and repent before your God. Do you have ought against your brother or sister- don’t delay, be reconciled at once! For why should God be displeased with your voice and reject your tears and prayers? One thing thou lackest if one man has ought against thee. Two things thou lackest if two have ought against thee. what follow to ask God to pour out His Spirit when there is strife and division in the house? How long can we suppose God will overlook the stench of dispisement that exists in the hearts of men? How long will the Lord look on and see discord among His people? And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)  
   

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